As technology continues to evolve, a design education programme must stimulate a holistic understanding of the subject and inculcate a multi-disciplinary perspective.
When we talk about design in a generic context, words such as art, self-expression, and beauty are what usually come to mind. But, over the past decade or so, the lexicon of design has expanded enormously to include much more than just simplistic notions of traditional art. Fuelled by advances in technology and science, modern day design is meant to be both aesthetic and pragmatic.
In the 21st century, design is required to take artistry and creativity and humanise technology to craft emotion-driven experiences. It is imperative for modern design to unify the worlds of business, technology, science and art to collaboratively develop innovative, yet practical, solutions for real-world problems. This is why a design education programme must stimulate a holistic understanding of the subject and inculcate a multi-disciplinary perspective in students — to build a new world by solving humanity’s problems through design.
In its essence, humanising technology is about creating seamless user-friendly designs that leverage technology to make products, services and processes more usable, delightful, and accessible. This, in turn, creates value for the organisation. It is necessary, therefore, to study a programme that promotes a transdisciplinary approach to design, and focuses on teaching how to humanise existing and emerging technologies.
A Bachelor’s in Design, with a focus on humanising technology, should combine subjects ranging from Art and the Basics of Design, to Coding and Business Studies. The building blocks of creative thinking and aestheticism can be inculcated through sketching, visualisations, form study, typography, and other methods. Once the foundational aspects of design are covered, students can move on to learning crucial tech skills in order to understand how products are built from the ground up. Understanding the technical fundamentals of UI, UX, web, and mobile apps can help students design more nuanced products and services, because they have an understanding of how the science works.
For example, products such as Amazon and Netflix have entered our everyday vocabulary as verbs owing in large part to their intuitive and appealing design interfaces, that continue to draw new users every day. As a result of the pandemic-induced constratints, we have also seen increased adoption of technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) to recreate online experiences that replace physical ones. This demonstrates the power as well as the utility of design in developing novel solutions and provides strong supporting evidence for why the application of technologies, such as VR, should form a significant component of the course curriculum. Ultimately, a Bachelor of Design degree must prepare students to become artists, inventors, innovators, and business strategists, all at the same time.
Design through multiple lenses
In addition to the basics of design and tech, an important aspect of humanising tech is about understanding people and psychology. Understanding customer behaviour and conducting ethnographic research should be important modules in a design programme’s curriculum. We live in what is known as an experiential economy today, where people are constantly looking for products that make them ‘feel’ a certain way. Design is an inextricable part of creating these experiences and students must be able to conceptualise it in a multidimensional way. Social, scientific and creative aspects must all be part of a programme’s pedagogy, in order to give students an edge in their careers.
Careers in Design
With the right kind of education, design students can foray into experience design where they can work on VR projects and IoT-related products, and can look forward to working as interaction designers, experience designers for emerging technology, design researchers, data visualisers, and UX designers. With a slew of career opportunities, and a new approach to design education that is shaped by cutting-edge technology, this is truly an exciting time for designers!